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If you have noticed pain or stiffness in your big toe, you may be developing a bunion.  A hard lump at the base of your toe is an indication of this.  Left untreated, bunion deformities can increase in size and pain.  What are bunions, and what should you do if you have one?  Diablo Foot and Ankle can help.  Here is everything you need to know about bunions, including when to seek medical care.

What Are Bunions?  

Bunion deformity, also known as Hallux Valgus deformity,  is the formation of a stiff bump at the base of your big toe.  They are caused by some of the bones in your foot moving out of place.  The big toes pushes against the next toe, and painful bunions can develop.  The joint in your toe that is out of alignment is the metatarsophalangeal joint, also called the MTP joint or MTJ.  This joint, located at the base of your big toe, is where bunions appear.

Why Do I Have Bunions?

Many people with bunions have them because of genetics.  If this is the case, you will likely start to notice them in your 20s or 30s, but bunions can develop at any age. A genetic predisposition makes you prone to developing the bunion, and lifestyle factors cause the formation of the bunion to progress. Painful bunions are very common, with over three million adults in the United States suffering from them last year.  Other causes of bunions are tight shoes, arthritis, and anything else that puts stress on the feet.  Since shoes that are tight and narrow around the toes are one of the leading causes of bunions, more women develop them than men.  High heels and other pointy toed shoes are notorious for causing bunions to form.

Bunion Symptoms

If you notice a hard lump on the side of your big toe, you may be getting bunions.  They may not hurt at first, but more painful bunions develop over time.  Look for these bunion symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Soreness
  • Stiffness 
  • Pain while walking
  • Big toe pressing into or overlapping the smaller toes
  • Corns and calluses between toes
  • Toe bent permanently downward (hammertoes)

You may be tempted to ignore your bunions if you only have a few minor symptoms, but this is not a good idea.  The longer you let your MTP joint stay out of alignment, the more damage it will cause to your foot.  Start treatment before you develop painful bunions.

Bunion Treatment

There are many small lifestyle changes you can make in order to control the progression of your bunion deformity.  Changing your shoes is a great first step.  Wear flat shoes that are wide in the toe region so your foot is not being squeezed while you have them on.  Bunion pads are also incredibly helpful for reducing irritation and pain along the inside of your big toe joint.  You can buy these at any pharmacy.  A cold compress can help reduce inflammation in painful bunions. 

Over-the-counter medications can help relieve some pain associated with bunions.  Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are the most common.  These reduce inflammation, which helps your feet to hurt less.  Ibuprofen and naproxen are both NSAIDs.  Acetaminophen can also help with painful bunions. Keep in mind that these medications will only treat the symptoms of the bunion, and not their root cause. 

Bunion deformity that progress and become painful despite self care measures need to be evaluated by a Podiatrist. The movement and mechanics of your big toe joint in all instances of bunion deformity are influenced by the biomechanics of your entire foot. A Podiatrist will evaluate all these factors in providing the most appropriate treatment plan, which should always begin with conservative care. Often a custom orthotic and specific shoe gear recommendations can halt progression of the bunion deformity. 

When conservative care has been exhausted, and you are continuing to see worsening of your bunion, your Podiatrist can discuss with you the specific surgical correction that is best suited for your foot. Often patients undergoing surgery are back on their feet the same day of their surgery, and back to full activity in just 6 weeks. No two bunions are created equally, and only your Podiatrist can explain to you which specific type of bunion surgery is best suited for you.

Need Relief From Painful Bunions?

If you are suffering from bunions, don’t wait another day.  Diablo Foot and Ankle is here to help.  Call today to schedule an appointment with a Podiatrist or reserve a time online.